DeSantis: Vaccination Priorities Are Set In Florida

Dec 7, 2020

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Residents in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities will be the first to get a coronavirus vaccine when Florida begins receiving it.

“We anticipate an FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine; and we believe next week we’ll see approval for the Moderna vaccine,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis in a video released last week.

DeSantis used the address to set the state's priorities for vaccine distribution. While he expects the state to begin receiving vaccines later this month, the governor concedes there will not be enough for everyone who wants it. So priorities are being set for Florida.

“The top priority will be our residents of our long-term care facilities,” said the governor. “Number two will be healthcare workers who are in high-risk and high-contact environments. And number three – to the extent we have enough – we want to start getting it out into the broader 65 and over community, as well as those who have significant comorbidities.”

One point stressed by DeSantis is that nobody will be mandated to be vaccinated. As it begins to arrive in Florida, he reminds Floridians there are different types of vaccines that are about to roll out, with each having slightly different requirements.

“The Pfizer vaccine will be the first to arrive; it has extraordinary storage requirements and it does require two doses separated by 21 days,” DeSantis said. “And that’s the same for the Moderna vaccine. Now it’s easier to store, it doesn’t require ultra-cold storage. But it does require two doses [but] instead of 21 days, you have 28 days.”

But wait, there’s more.

"There are other vaccines on the horizon; One that’s very promising is the one that’s being manufactured by Johnson & Johnson,” the governor said. “They have already produced this at an industrial scale. Importantly, it only requires one dose and it doesn’t require any type of special storage.”

For now, only Pfizer and Moderna have applied for approval by the Food and Drug Administration. 

“As we work to get the most high-risk vaccinated in December and into January, you may see during the month of January an FDA approval for Johnson & Johnson, DeSantis said. “And perhaps that could start hitting by the time we get into February, there would be enough produced of that to have widespread vaccination.”

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson.
Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Watching the progress is Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson, who is OK witDeSantis’ vaccination priorities.

“Obviously, we would have liked to have been, in northwest Florida in the front part of it, but there’s no doubt that southeast Florida is seeing the more significant impact; I understand those things,” said the mayor. “From what I understood that our expectation is that we should see these things by January.”

During his weekly virtual news conference, he said the first wave is what the focus is on for the time being.

“Healthcare workers – which I think are vitally important – first responders, which has been a part of our modeling and reporting all along,” said Robinson. “Then finally, recalling moving into those congregate living facilities with our elderly. This is really the worst place we see the impact.”

The key right now, as Robinson sees it, is getting the vaccine to those three groups.

“That begins to make it easier for us to deal with COVID cases in hospitals,” said the mayor. “It makes it easier to know that we’re going to still be able to offer first responder services and things to keep the community going. An then, more importantly, we’re going to be able to take care of our elderly that are in congregate living facilities.”

But until needle meets arm, Mayor Robinson repeated the mantra of staying safe that we’ve heard the past nine months — masks, distancing, and hand-cleaning — and had the latest COVID-19 figures to back it up.

“The state positivity rate is 6.96 [percent] and Escambia County 9.65 on Dec. 2,” said Robinson. Eight-point-24 on the 3rd and 8.49 on the 4th. We’ve also continued to see hospitalizations climb. [Monday] we’re at 133.”

In preparing for the distribution, the Florida Department of Health has purchased five million syringes, five million needles and five million alcohol swabs. Five different hospital systems have been identified as being able to store the vaccine at the required temperatures, and to administer it.